Jobe is a church janitor. This is not his real name but he exists. I spoke with him last week. He attended ISPCS and also our SUMMIT on Inclusion. This janitor spent over $1500 to join our community. When people attend ISPCS, we do not ask for their title. When you see a name badge at ISPCS, you see a name, and organization. We also ask attendees to list 3 things for their badge that anyone can talk to them about. I have seen everything from talk to me about the Grateful Dead to talk to me about my dogs. I never looked at what Jobe had on his badge. I make it my purpose to talk to as many of our attendees as possible. A number of times I observed Jobe standing alone. He seemed a bit lost. I finally went up and asked how he was experiencing the ISPCS. He said he was trying to put it all together. Lots of people say this.
When I got on the bus early Friday morning to go out to the Gateway to Space, where we were holding the SUMMIT, I saw Jobe again. As we had a long ride, I eventually got around to talking to him. That’s when I discovered he is a janitor. The people on the bus and the people who attend ISPCS are leaders, global leaders in the space industry. They are presidents, chief executive officers, their professional engineers, business development vice presidents, venture capitalists, but I am pretty sure Jobe is our first janitor.
On the bus he told me about his love of astronomy. He told me he is a musician. I began to understand as I listened to his speech patterns, he talked in poetic phrases. This is not like a conversation I have ever had with my janitors. So I told him what I was thinking. He smiled and said thank you. As the SUMMIT progressed, we asked people to stretch out of their comfort zone to talk about things like bias. We all have biases, retailers count on it when they design everything from jeans to cars. I never told anyone Jobe was a janitor. He did. It was a jolt in the community. Job titles can be one more way to keep an employee from moving forward in an organization.
The point of the SUMMIT was to help the thirty attendees discover more effective ways to develop and nurture diverse work teams. Diversity in academic discipline, geographic location, diversity of university you graduated from, this type of diversity leads to a broader community that can solve the complex challenges facing our industry. I understand gender discrimination, yet discussion on diversity has to go beyond gender and ethnicity. I am a white female. I am not changing my gender nor my ethnicity for the rest of my life. This is it. So get on with what I can influence. That was also what we addresses at the SUMMIT. What can we influence? We certainly can influence who we hire. We can influence how we work with each other.
Virgin Galactic is committed to recruiting people from New Mexico. Recruitment of New Mexicans or for that matter a diverse pool of people was not going well at their plants in Mojave and Long Beach. Jonathan Firth with Virgin Galactic and I decided to work on developing effective work teams together and to make it part of ISPCS. It is an honor when I am asked to help on such a noble effort. We asked the SUMMIT attendees, who included Las Cruces Public School district teachers, NMSU students and faculty and leaders in the space industry to stay vulnerable and take care of each other while it was happening. The audience was and academic, geographic, age, gender, position and skill mash up. Just what we wanted.
The outcomes include a commitment by the NASA office of diversity and inclusion to work with the Las Cruces Public School to help them analyze some of the data they are gathering on how to structure their programs in the district. We continued to help the group focus to work on what they could influence today. NMSU would like to work with UTEP and together we will follow up with the National Center for Women in Technology, an organization I brought into ISPCS three years ago.
What about Jobe? What will he do, will he have anyone to work with him and his church? Jobe feels he is ignored. I know my janitors. In fact, one of them asked me for help. Her son wanted to go to Georgia Tech. I contacted my counterpart, the Space Grant Director at Georgia Tech and sure enough, he helped. And her son Carlos graduated in engineering last year. I will follow up with Jobe and see what his plan is now. Will he do anything differently? It’s always good to ask the killer question, did this workshop make a difference in your life? I will report back.